HMS Opal (1915)

HMS Opal was an Admiralty M-class destroyer of the Royal Navy. She served in the First World War following her construction at Sunderland in 1915. Attached to the 12th Destroyer Flotilla based with the Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow, Opal had an eventful short life, which ended in shipwreck after two and a half years of service.

HMS Opal on the River Wear
United Kingdom
Name: HMS Opal
Builder: William Doxford & Sons, Sunderland
Launched: 11 September 1915
Fate: Wrecked on 12 January 1918
General characteristics
Class and type: Admiralty M-class destroyer
  • 994 long tons (1,010 t) standard
  • 1,042 long tons (1,059 t) full load
Length: 269 ft (82 m)
Beam: 27 ft 6 in (8.38 m)
  • 8 ft 8 in (2.64 m) mean
  • 10 ft 6 in (3.20 m) maximum
Propulsion: 3 shafts, steam turbines, 25,000 shp (18,642 kW)
Speed: 34 knots (63 km/h; 39 mph)
Range: 237–298 tons fuel oil
Complement: 80

Construction and design

Opal was one of 25 destroyers (consisting of 22 M-class destroyers and three Parker-class flotilla leaders) ordered in late November 1914 as part of the Third War Programme.[1] The M class was the latest class of destroyers ordered for the Royal Navy before the outbreak of the First World War, and this order was one of a series of large orders for destroyers of this class placed in the early months of the war which resulted in 90 ships being ordered by May 1915 in addition to ships ordered prior to the outbreak of the war.[2][3]

Opal was laid down at William Doxford & Sons shipyard in Sunderland on 1 February 1915, and was launched on 11 September 1915.[4] The ship reached a speed of 34.31 knots (63.54 km/h; 39.48 mph) during sea trials early in 1916,[5] and commissioned in April 1916.[4]


On commissioning, Opal joined the 12th Destroyer Flotilla, based at Scapa Flow as part of the Grand Fleet.[6][7] Opal took part in the Battle of Jutland where the Twelfth Flotilla supported the Grand Fleet,[8] and both attacked and was attacked during the general action. She also participated in other major fleet sorties during the next two years as well as pursuing her regular duties of minesweeping, convoy protection and anti-submarine patrols in the North Sea.

On 24 July 1917, Opal and the destroyer Mounsey were escorting an east-bound convoy on the Scandinavian (Lerwick–Norway) route, when the convoy came under attack by the German submarine U-67, which fired two torpedoes from distance at the convoy, one of which hit and sunk the Swedish merchant ship Viking. In response, Opal followed back the track of the torpedo and dropped a depth charge on the estimated location of the submarine, but U-67 escaped unharmed.[9][10]

On 12 January 1918, Opal joined her sister ship Narborough and the light cruiser Boadicea in a night patrol to hunt German auxiliary warships suspected to be laying mines on the Scottish coast. By 17:30, the weather had deteriorated to such an extreme degree that the destroyers were in danger of swamping and foundering and visibility was near zero. Fearing that her companions might sink, Boadicea ordered Opal and Narborough back to Scapa Flow while she continued alone. For the next four hours, Opal regularly sent reports indicating her course and intention to return, but at 21:27, a garbled message stating have run aground was received, followed by silence. The weather was so atrocious that no vessels could be despatched until the following morning, and it was two days before Opal was found, battered, broken and empty on the Clett of Crura off the east coast of South Ronaldsay. Narborough was found in a similar position nearby. One survivor — William Sissons — was later located on a small islet, and he related that the ships had been sailing a regular slow course making frequent soundings and radio reports, but had suddenly crashed headlong into the rocks, probably due to a navigation error by Opal's captain. Both wrecks were abandoned and broken up by the sea over the next few weeks taking the bodies of both crews, bar the single survivor, with them.[11][12]

Pennant numbers

Pennant number[13]FromTo
G02April 1916January 1917
G42January 1917January 1918
G41January 1918Loss


  1. Friedman 2009, p. 156.
  2. Friedman 2009, pp. 155–156.
  3. Gardiner and Gray 1985, p. 80.
  4. Friedman 2009, p. 309.
  5. Burt 1986, p. 49.
  6. "NMM, vessel ID 378246" (PDF). Warship Histories, Vol. II. National Maritime Museum. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  7. "Supplement to the Navy List Showing Organisation of the Fleet, Flag Officers' Commands &c.: Destroyer Flotillas of the Grand Fleet". The Navy List: 12. May 1916. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  8. Campbell 1998, pp. 14, 24.
  9. Naval Staff Monograph 1939, p. 265.
  10. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Viking". Retrieved 18 October 2017.
  11. "A précis of the article by K.D. McBride in the Mariner's Mirror, vol 85 1999 - published by the Society for Nautical Research". The loss of HMS Opal and HMS Narborough 12 January 1918. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  12. "HMS Opal: Cletts of Clura: Wind Wick: South Ronaldsay, North Sea". Royal Commission of the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  13. Dittmar and Colledge 1972, p. 66.


  • Burt, R. A. (1986). British Destroyers in World War One: Warships Illustrated No. 7. London: Arms & Armour Press. ISBN 0-85368-753-6.
  • Campbell, John (1998). Jutland: An Analysis of the Fighting. London: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-750-3.
  • Dittmar, F.J.; Colledge, J.J. (1972). British Warships 1914–1919. Shepperton, UK: Ian Allan. ISBN 0-7110-0380-7.
  • Friedman, Norman (2009). British Destroyers: From Earliest Days to the Second World War. Barnsley, UK: Seaforth Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84832-049-9.
  • Gardiner, Robert; Gray, Randal, eds. (1985). Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships 1906–1921. London: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-245-5.
  • Monograph No. 35: Home Waters—Part IX: 1st May 1917 to 31st July 1917 (PDF). Naval Staff Monographs (Historical). XIX. The Naval Staff, Training and Staff Duties Division. 1939.

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